18 wild Asian elephants found dead in remote protected forests in India

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Indian authorities launched an investigation into the deaths of at least 18 elephants on Friday after a senior conservationist cast doubts that the animals were killed by lightning, which government officials cited as likely.

The dead herd was found Thursday in the hilly Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest in the remote northeastern Indian state of Assam.

Forest officials and a local lawmaker, Jitu Goswami, told Agence France-Presse they believed the elephants died after lightning struck the forest.

India elephants killed
This frame grave from a video by KK Productions shows an Indian village boy paying homage to one of 18 wild Asian elephants found dead on May 13, 2021 in the protected Kondali forest reserve in the northeastern Indian state of Assam. KK PRODUCTIONS via AP

KK PRODUCTIONS via AP


However, prominent conservationist Soumyadeep Datta of environmental activist group Nature’s Beckon said it was unlikely based on social media images.

“Poisoning could be behind the death of the elephants,” Datta told AFP. “We have to wait for the autopsy report that the forest department will do soon.”

A team of veterinarians and officials were on site on Friday, along with Parimal Shuklabaidya, Assam’s forest and environment minister.

APTOPIX India Elephant Photo Gallery
The October 2016 photo shows an injured male Asian elephant known as Sidda trying to grab a bunch of bananas thrown at him by a forest ranger in the backwaters of Manchinbele Dam on the outskirts of Bangalore, India. Sidda, a partially blind wild elephant who took refuge in the dam’s backwaters after breaking his right leg in late August while being followed by villagers, later died.

Aijaz Rahi / AP


Almost 30,000 elephants live in India, around 60 percent of the wild Asian elephant population.

In recent years, there have been more and more cases of elephants being killed by locals – and vice versa – as people continued to enter forest areas.

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